School consolidation as disaster capitalism

School consolidation would set up an artificial fiscal disaster that could force the “unified” public school system to turn to private foundations for funding, at the price of control of public education by private entities. This is disaster capitalism, or the shock doctrine, right here in Valdosta and Lowndes County.

What’s the Shock Doctrine? It’s been around for a long time, but Naomi Klein researched it for her book of the same name. It’s

“the rapid-fire corporate reengineering of societies still reeling from shock”
She was writing mostly about wars, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. Locally here we haven’t had any of those. But we may be about to create a disaster, a shock, at the ballot box in November, if voters fall for the school “unification” snake oil.

What’s the next step after CUEE has accidentally revealed that school consolidation wouldn’t improve education, wouldn’t save money, and would raise taxes? After we learned from consolidation opponents such as the Lowndes County Board of Education that it’s even worse than that: consolidation would reduce state and federal school funding and even after raising local taxes to the state cap there still wouldn’t be enough money to pay for all existing services? That’s the shock, the disaster. A disaster that would, as Sam Allen enumerated, trigger massive layoffs, service cuts, and school closings.

Where could the “unified” Lowndes County School System turn to then, to bail the schools out of that artificial budget crisis? CUEE’s paid expert from Tennessee had a local foundation waiting for just such a case when the Chattanooga and Hamilton County TN schools consolidated. A local foundation with access to deep pockets of larger foundations and of local old money, that is, from what CUEE’s other (unpaid) expert from Troup County called the “white fathers”.

Now you tell me: do you think those foundations and the “white fathers” (you may know them as the old boys) will provide that money no strings attached? Or will they insist, as they did in Hamilton County, Tennessee, on doing it their way, with their own parachuted-in school superintendent? This is a textbook case; it might have come right out of Naomi Klein’s book:

“the shock doctrine”: using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks … to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy.

Nevermind that the corporate reengineering of the Hamilton County, Tennessee schools was a failure:

  • There was educational disruption outside the classroom.
  • Test scores went down in the classroom.
  • The schools overall became more racially segregated.
  • Bright flight went to private schools.
  • Public school teachers were better off, but educational results did not improve accordingly.
  • Public school costs went up.
  • State and federal funds paid part of the difference, but we can’t expect that.
  • Taxes went up for county residents, even though they didn’t get to vote for or against consolidation.
Nevermind the facts; proponents of local school consolidation, they believe! They believe what Barbara Stratton calls,
catch phrases & false promises that look & sound good. All of their info is at best a half truth. The promises that are imposible to keep are lies. I was raised believing a promise broken is a truth untold, which is a lie.
So if all the stated reasons are impossible promises, what is school consolidation really about?

School “unification” was never about education, anyway! Ask Sam Allen, who was on the original study committee,

And they fooled me; I’ve got to admit I was part of this. I admit it. Because they told me that we are finally going to get an official study done that will prove once and for all whether having a dual school institute has a negative impact on economic development. They hired the Chamber of Commerce; they hired the Carl Vinson Institute.

They sent the Carl Vinson Institute back twice because it didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear. And when it came back the third time, is my understanding, it still didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear. So they surveyed their own members.

And apparently their members believed, despite what the Chamber’s own studies showed.

Ask Fred Wetherington, who was there when it was first brought up at the Chamber told us,

The whole idea was could it help us with economic development in our community.
Sure, they tacked on pie in the sky in the form of increased student achievement and lowered taxes.

It turns out none of those three things happened in CUEE’s favorite examples of consolidation, Hamilton County, Tennessee or in Troup County, Georgia!

Even worse than CUEE’s own research, which showed that consolidation wouldn’t save money, Dr. Troy Davis has demonstrated, by using CUEE’s own assumptions combined with data from the Lowndes County tax office, that consolidation would cost more, raise taxes, and reduce services.

But what about bringing in new industry? Let Jerome Tucker, who was also there when the Chamber first floated this idea, answer that:

Folks, the truth is, I have never, never, been asked whether I’ve got one system or two. Never! I have never asked anyone whether they have one system or two.

Now while I served on the Industrial Authority, I can not think of one business I lost because we had two systems.
And let’s remember that CUEE and the Chamber and their invited experts could not think of a single example, either.

Why on earth would anyone still be pushing this “unification” or consolidation nonsense?

Who would benefit by all this turmoil and decrease in services in public education? Private educational institutions and real estate speculators. Probably it’s just coincidence that there are so many connections with those and CUEE and the Chamber. Probably it’s just concidence that, as Annie Fisher said,
The members of the CUEE, they send their children to private schools.
Far be it from me to suggest anybody might be promoting this public fiasco for private profit.

If not, then what is it really about? I think Naomi Klein nailed it:

to achieve control
Sam Allen put it even more eloquently:
It’s not about the children. It’s about somebody’s ego. They want to consolidate these schools, and to take over our government.
Quite likely Karen Noll is right, that school consolidation isn’t even the end game.
The end game is consolidating the governments of the county and the city.

If a community seeks to consolidate the governments, they must FIRST consolidate the schools!!

Sure, that’s speculation; nobody’s found any written documentation of such plans on the part of school consolidation proponents. But when you see an arrow connecting two dots pointing straight at a third, you have to wonder.

Suppose it is only about school consolidation. Jerome Tucker asked the most pertinent question:

What makes the Chamber of Commerce better qualified than professional educators?

Forum at Valdosta Middle School, Valdosta Board of Education (VBOE),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 20 September 2011.
Videos by George Boston Rhynes for bostongbr on YouTube.

We don’t need disaster capitalism in Valdosta and Lowndes County, Georgia. We don’t need private business using an artificial financial disaster to take over the public school systems. So let’s not make the disaster. Vote No to school consolidation on November 8th. If you live outside Valdosta, call your friends, tell them to vote no, and carry them to the polls.

Instead of falling for the shock doctrine, how about we do what Annie Fisher suggested:

Put energy into things that are right for all children.